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Rich, page 1of 8

Rich's Story

I grew up in Atherton, but now I live over on Herning Street in a two bedroom house by myself. I've lived in town for 12 years. I am basically a slow learner, things come hard for me. I'm easy to get along with. But I'm not outgoing. I'm single and, right now, unemployed. I have a lot of friends over at the clubhouse, and I go see them about every day. Sometimes we go out to movies at night.

I want people to learn that, whatever they have in their heads about mental illness, we need to develop better treatments. I think many people have preconceived ideas about people with mental illness. I just want people to know … we 're just like everyone else. We like what everybody else likes - going to the movies, having friends, going to the mall.

I kind of cut myself off from everyone when I was a kid, I think because I felt I was a slow learner. I would say, now, that I was depressed, but I wasn't recognized until later on. Then they had me tested. My folks didn't know what to think of it, but I knew something was wrong. My family was real supportive: told me to do what the doctor said. The doctor told me I had manic-depression and a borderline personality disorder. Sometimes I felt bad and down, and sometimes on top of the world. Now I am involved at the clubhouse and get to take part in fun activities like go bowling or go to the library. Basically they show us how to cook and take care of ourselves. Sometimes I get tired of seeing the same people all the time, but most of the time it's OK.

My family wants me to get a part-time job because it would make me feel better. I have some limitations, but people don't think we can work. Sometimes I feel employers don't understand mental illness. They just don't have patience with you. Sometimes I think I set myself up for failure.

I've been unemployed for the last three years, except for a couple of days here and there in frustrating job tries. Barb, my case manager in Temporary Services Program here in town, said I should apply for VR services. I think there's a push to refer everyone to go VR for job services. I really don't know exactly what I want. I had services years ago - I was first referred by my high school counselor to VR and they diagnosed me with a mental illness. They sent me to another state for training in how to operate a dry cleaning business.

It really didn't work out. The trainer didn't have much patience with me, and I was pretty slow. So he would do my work for me. You have to be real organized and precise with the folding and ironing. I didn't do a good job, so he would do it for me. By the time I finished the year and a half program I couldn't stand the heat and chemicals, and the speed of having to do the job. I tried to get a job in dry cleaning but they were all hot, stinky, and the bosses didn't have patience. Besides, the dry cleaners around here only hire their family members anyway.

I really have two disabilities, and some people say I have a third. I also have a bad back and see a chiropractor every week. I was diagnosed with a learning disability in second grade because I wasn't learning how to read and I was slow in other things, too. They put me in special education classes. I knew something was wrong - I would stay by myself most the time and I didn't have many friends. The school counselor finally talked to me because of my problems in school and referred me in my senior year to VR. VR sent me to a doctor who gave me a bunch of tests and talked to me a little. She said I had a mental illness which caused me to have mood swings and explained why I wasn't doing well in school or very happy in general. Later on I learned that my diagnosis was "Bi-Polar Disorder". They also tried to tell me I had a "Borderline Personality Disorder", which I don't buy.

I think my slowness in learning is the most important thing that keeps me from working at any job for very long.. I don't think I can keep up with others, and I'm always afraid the boss will find out and fire me. I know I should tell them ahead of time but I'm afraid this will draw attention and make me feel uncomfortable. I'm also concerned because I get tired in the afternoon because of my medicine. I take a nap every afternoon right now. I haven't worked in, really, three years, and I don't know what jobs I can do. They sent me for some type of evaluation years ago at the local rehabilitation center and they told me the only thing I could do was janitorial work or laundry, and I don't like working around dirt and chemicals. I tried to tell them this, and they gave me more tests. They said that I couldn't manage the stress if I got a job around people.

I would like to find some type of sales work. I really like the idea of selling and of getting commissions. Or maybe something using computers. I don't know really.



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Copyright 2002, Curators of the University of Missouri, Columbia
The information on this page is fictionalized from a real story.